Perks / Fringe Benefits

* When Dewey tell the world that we’re dead, but not yet buried? The firm filed a notice with the New York State Department of Labor listing its closing date as yesterday. And what’s their reason for doing so? “Economic.” [Am Law Daily (sub. req.)]

* Dewey have anyone left in the Office of the Chairman? Apparently not: Charles Landgraf has moved on to greener pastures. There is no longer a captain at the wheel of the S.S. Dewey. [The Hill]

* “The continuing loss of revenue-generating partners and Dewey’s debt load has culminated in the imminent demise of Dewey.” Damn, the PBGC certainly doesn’t mince words. Meet the firm’s latest lawsuit. [Reuters]

* A judge reinstated Le-Nature’s $500M case against K&L Gates for failure to detect fraud. Hope the firm has a half-billion lying around — they haven’t been doing too well with the whole honesty thing lately. [Businessweek]

* You stay classy, DSK! Your aggravated pimp hand is strong! Dominique Strauss-Kahn filed a $1M countersuit against Nafissatou Diallo because she “ruined his life, personally and professionally.” [Wall Street Journal]

* Conspiring to price fix? There’s an app for that! A federal judge denied Apple’s and several book publishers’ motions to dismiss a consumer class-action lawsuit about e-book pricing. [Media Decoder / New York Times]

* Like FernGully in reverse? A judge refused to dismiss Chevron’s racketeering and fraud lawsuit against New York attorney Steven Donziger for his work done in Ecuador. [New York Law Journal]

* Thomas Jefferson Law will be the site of the next solo incubator. This is a great way to keep your grads from suing you (not to mention a great way to increase your employed-at-nine-months rate). [National Law Journal]

President Barack Obama now supports marriage equality. And so do many major law firms, it seems. More than 30 top firms provide the “tax offset for domestic partner health benefits” or the “tax equalization for same-sex health benefits.” (If you’re not familiar with this benefit, also known as the “gay gross-up,” see this explanation.)

Since our last discussion of which Biglaw firms offer the tax offset, a few more names have jumped on the bandwagon. Let’s find out which ones, shall we?

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This past Friday, we broke the news of the troubled Dewey & LeBoeuf law firm issuing WARN Act notice to its employees. This federal law generally requires an employer “to provide notice 60 days in advance of covered plant closings and covered mass layoffs.”

That was Friday, May 4. Earlier this week, Dewey informed many support staff members that their last day of work would be this Friday, May 11. It then informed many associates that their last day of work will be this coming Tuesday, May 15. Both staffers and associates will be paid through the 15th and will have health insurance through May 31st.

My math skills have atrophied from disuse, but I am still capable of counting to 60. And it seems to me that Dewey did not provide its employees with 60 days notice of its mass layoffs.

So, Dewey have any WARN Act liability?

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Billable-hour requirements are generally like the price of gas: they just keep going up. A law professor might compare it to a one-way ratchet. As law firms try to increase their profitability — by doing more work with less manpower, thanks to recessionary layoffs that haven’t been completely reversed — they ask more and more of their lawyers. Right?

Well, not necessarily. One Biglaw firm recently lowered its hours requirement — and instituted some other perks worth noting.

Might other firms follow suit? Perhaps yours?

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Partnership has its privileges. Partners at major law firms enjoy glittering prestige and eye-popping profits. The retirement benefits are amazing; some partners take home seven-figure checks for years after leaving their firms. All of this filthy lucre allows some partners to snag beautiful mates — sexy Russian spies, ex-girlfriends of Hollywood celebrities, and former models from Brazil.

The real estate isn’t bad either. Many Biglaw partners own million-dollar homes, which we lovingly cover in Lawyerly Lairs. And law firm offices are paragons of elegance and comfort — which they ought to be, considering how much time the partners spend in them. (In New York, I’m particularly fond of Proskauer’s premises and Davis Polk’s digs.)

Partners with sufficient seniority enjoy coveted corner offices. Right?

Not necessarily. That brings us to our latest Biglaw blind item….

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It’s been a while since we did a perk watch that didn’t involve things getting better for gays and lesbians. Ever since the recession, Biglaw has acted like having a job also counts as a fringe benefit.

But benefits haven’t been frozen in time since 2007. We have extensively reported on the “gay gross up” (or “tax equalization for same-sex health benefits”) trend. But there have been some interesting health benefit trends happening at law firms beyond extending basic fairness to same-sex couples.

Adam Okun has done a round-up of Biglaw perks on the blog Frenkely Speaking. It’s not going to come as a galloping shock that Biglaw is punishing to families….

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It’s late October, so Biglaw bonus news could drop any day now. In 2010, Cravath didn’t kick off the season until November 22. But back in 2009, Cravath announced bonuses on November 2. And in 2007 — yes, the glory days, before the Great Recession — Cravath announced bonuses, regular and “special,” on October 29.

In light of the economic gloom and doom, including the possibility of a double-dip recession, it wouldn’t be shocking if bonuses are modest this year. Better to conserve the cash and avoid layoffs, right? Or maybe repeat what happened in 2010 and save some money for spring bonuses in a few months, when firms might have a better idea of the direction of the economy?

Regardless of how bonuses turn out, there are other pockets of good news in the world of large law firms — even news requiring law firms to open their wallets. Check out the growing number of firms that offer the perk we’ve dubbed the gay gross-up….

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* Not a wardrobe malfunction, my ass. Nancy Grace would sooner allow Casey Anthony to babysit her kids than admit that she had a nip slip on live television. [New York Post]

* When you have a “superior legal mind,” it’s easier for your feelings to get hurt. Gregory Berry now claims that Kasowitz Benson was “extraordinarily vindictive.” [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Irving Picard’s suit against Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz has been dismissed (for the most part). This is the best thing to happen to the Mets since Bill Buckner. [Bloomberg]

* In the past, when a wife cried in Massachusetts, a judge would wipe her tears with her husband’s checkbook, but alimony just ain’t what it used to be. [New York Times]

* Apparently judges in San Luis Obispo, California have banged one gavel too many. They’ve been reaching verdicts outside the courtroom to pad their own benefits packages. [Legal Newsline]

* Florida International isn’t just dominating the University of Miami in football this year. FIU schooled Miami when it came to Florida’s bar exam results, too. [Miami New Times]

We have been tracking — as have other news outlets, such as the New York Times — which leading law firms offer the perk we’ve nicknamed the gay gross-up. If you’re inclined towards formality, you can call it the “tax offset for domestic partner health benefits.” For an explanation of what this perk is all about, read this prior post.

Since our last round-up, additional prominent law firms have adopted this policy. Let’s check out the latest list….

UPDATE (9/7/11, 12:30 PM): We’ve added to our list since it went up yesterday.

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Here in the great state of New York, marriage equality is the order of the day — as it is in five other states, plus D.C.. But due to the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal tax code does not recognize same-sex unions. As a result, as explained by the law firm of McCarter & English, “the Internal Revenue Code treats the value of employer-provided healthcare benefits for a civil union or domestic partner as ‘imputed income’ to the employee. This means that employees who elect domestic partner benefits must pay income tax on the value of those benefits, which is in direct contrast to employees with different-sex spouses.”

To address this inequality, a number of law firms — including McCarter & English, as of this June — have adopted what we here at Above the Law have dubbed the “gay gross-up.” This benefit consists of “a bump in income such that, post-tax, the employees are in the same position as similarly situated employees electing healthcare benefits for their opposite-sex spouses.”

In addition to McCarter, a number of prominent law firms have adopted this policy since our last report. Let’s find out which ones….

UPDATE (8/25/11): We’ve added to the list since it was originally published. See the updated list below.

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